11 May 2011

Getting by: our cost of living in Canberra

Sunshine and I are frustrated by money. We're in the best income bracket we've ever been in, yet we recall better living when we were students! We live as frugally as practical in Canberra, and still we can make no headway. We dream of home ownership - not investment house speculation, but realise both are not possible.

Ideally, and morally, we think living comfortably and with long term considerations should be possible on a single income basis in the family (gender has nothing to do with this). But as it turns out, that's just not possible. Put your kids in day care not so you can save more money, but so you can simply hold down two jobs and careers, for when your kids are in school and you might save a few dollars a week then and slowly get ahead. Too bad if you're single parent, crash and burn in divorce, or are a primary care giver for an aged or disabled relative/friend.

There simply is no room to move in this economy, and we feel alone in this as the media reports noone else feeling this way. We are just above the average income level in the ACT, so I just don't know how others do it! Oh, yes I do.. forget the Australian dream of home ownership and getting ahead, that's actually a nightmare created of want makers. Accept high rents, precarity, and the wasted money that that means. No real self determination, no capital, no alternative.

Here's how our expenditure breaks down each week for 2 adults and a baby:

1300 Single income after tax
430 Rent mid to low range rental cost)
250 Car. includes repayments, fuel, rego, insurance and service. Not possible to live without a car in Canberra
300 Food, cleaning products, personal hygiene, clothing, for 2 adults and a baby
150 Utilities, including gas, electricity, phones and Internet
200 Discretionary spending for payments on loans if we take them (such as the emergency trip to the Philippines), some lunches, a cheep take out meal, a Sunday drive, and maybe a DVD

Position: -$30 each week

So, the other parent goes to work, So far, 2 days a week

350 Additional income from second parent working 2 days
150 Childcare ($75 per day)
50 Extra discretionary spending such as doctors and medicine brought on by childcare
30 brought over from the single income family negative position

Position: $120 each week

We "save" $120 per week, which is more than most, but to be honest - there's always something to spend that on, like repaying those emergency loan, or covering an unexpected cost like a car repair or speeding fine.. Even though I reckon we live frugally, if comfortably, every day I wonder about those less fortunate than us, or with more than one kid. How the hell people afford a 10-20% deposit, only to find themselves in a $600 per week or more mortgage, plus rates, plus renovations or repairs! Forget it. Investment property should be made an entirely separate activity to home making, and those trying to reduce their cost of living and use of resources. One is immoral, the other essential.


Deb said...

Seeing that your most major expense is your rent, have you considered living in a cheaper area or very small flat? I've been very inspired by many minimalism and small space/small house living blogs recently and am abandoning my own plans to extend my 950sq foot house as a result.

Leigh Blackall said...

flats in Canberra are about the same price as the outer suburb rental house we have. We need/prefer a house and yard because we have 2 dogs and a child. The only alternative I can see as maybe possible if we can raise some capital, is this container house plan we've been working on. But we admit its a pipe dream. What we're doing now is tightening the budget. $300 a week for food and stuff seems high to us, even though we shop at Aldi. So we're looking into ways to reduce that... the utilities bill could be cheaper if landlords thought to change their houses some!

Leigh Blackall said...

PS Deb, you must follow the Tinyhouse blog? I have been for a couple of years now. Inspired much of the container house idea. The solution is a portable small shelter that can be built and erected mostly DIY, and that has a minimal footprint, and is totally off grid so as land owners will consider renting a patch of dirt cheap... the DIY is critical if price is to be reduced.

stevenparker said...

I feel the same about the cost of living in Sydney, read this:

Urban sprawl over but so is Aussie dream of home and land, says major sustainability report

Australia is yet to experience the fallout of their huge debt overheads as in Ireland.

Banks are 'hounding borrowers to suicide'

It is frustrating but being debt free is a blessing at the moment, esp as interest rates are set rise considerably over the next two years.

Deb said...

No haven't seen that particular blog but will follow it now. I'll also check out the container house...first impression - wouldn't it be rather hot/cold?
Anyway all this reading about our spaces has revolutionized my thinking....and made me get rid of a lot of clutter...which in turn has dramatically lessened my interest in shopping...and it goes on.

Leigh Blackall said...

Hot or cold.. managed by insulation, shade, sun, and airflow. And of course, rocket fire thermal mass heating/cooling

Fass said...

No Leigh, you are not alone, the frustration for us lies in the belief that we, as Middle Australians, are travelling well in our current economy.
We too are a single income family, $1000 per week after tax. But added to the cost of a teenager still at school is that the non-working partner is of pensionable age. But we are told he does not qualify because of our excessive household income.
The cost of maintaining an older person far exceeds that of maintaining a teenager. Yet we receive family tax payments for the teenager, and nothing for the older partner. Interesting where our priorities lie!

Leigh Blackall said...

Well Fass, the teenager will soon be farmed for tax yields. The older person is just a burden in today's accounting terms... a few years from now, our worldly accountants will work out a way of measuring love. As in the love and support that the older person can give to a younger person working out that they're just live-stock to a tax farmer.